According to pilots conducted in Finland, Sweden and Denmark, eHealth through the use of broadband networks creates a better quality of life for patients, efficient work processes for care professionals, a valuable experience for the industry, and cost savings for municipalities. But how can you deploy this? A European project group formulated six recommendations.
The recommendations are aimed at supporting policy makers as well as other stakeholders who plan to establish or expand their Fibre to the Home (FTTH) networks to include digital homecare applications. Digital homecare means social and health care delivered with the help of information and communication technology usually to the patient’s or client’s home.
Fiber to the home is a relatively new and fast growing method of providing vastly higher bandwidth to consumers and businesses, and thereby enabling more robust video, internet and voice services. Long distances are no objection.
“During 12 months, participants of the EU co-funded Connected for Health project tested digital homecare services through open-access fibre networks in Finland, Sweden and Denmark”, says Marjatta Eväsoja, Director of International Affairs and Culture at the Regional Council of South Ostrobothnia, the coordinator of the project. “It created a positive experience for the pilot participants, in terms of better quality of life, efficient work processes, a valuable experience for the industry, and cost savings for municipalities.”
The following recommendations are based on information gathered by the pilots in Denmark, Finland and Sweden, the knowledge of partners, and existing research literature:
- Support the deployment of FTTH networks to provide connectivity in rural areas. FTTH networks can provide a future-proof infrastructure that virtually removes bandwidth and latency limitations, hence giving the freedom to deploy an optimal mix of digital homecare services with no compromise on quality of services, or on geographic location. This will improve quality of life and enable cost savings.
- Promote operator-neutrality, open access for the new FTTH networks, and encourage local government involvement. The Connected for Health project experienced that an operator-neutral network (open access) and local government engagement are key enablers to align service needs and network requirements, and to create a truly open market from which to procure digital services.
- Define a financially sustainable business model for the homecare services and spread successful experiences and best-practices. For any innovation to establish itself in society, it has to be supported by a business model in which all stakeholders have something to win, which means a positive net benefit for all.
- Prepare for organisational changes and training programmes necessary for the new digital services to be successfully introduced. Implementation of digital homecare services often requires change in work processes and service provision. The staff needs to be engaged, trained and fully supported. For digital homecare users, the quality of care should be at least on the same level as in the traditional model.
- Define a specific digital service class for digital homecare services including performance specifications and network requirements for their delivery. A specific digital service class (or service type) alongside existing commercial triple play services (Internet, television and telephony) should be used for homecare care service delivery, since digital homecare has stringent requirements in terms of security, quality and reliability.
- Standardise the technical platform for delivery of digital homecare services using a dedicated communication channel. The experiences from the project pilots suggest that a specifically designed standardised technical platform should be considered. By providing connectivity to all of the client’s digital services over a single dedicated connection, the platform guarantees the required quality of service, and puts in place a market for the digital homecare services.
Catalyst for market growth
“Along with the development of the EU Digital Single Market strategy and the EU initiative European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing, the findings in the Recommendations report may also serve as a catalyst for market growth of digital homecare services and products in rural areas”, says Silas Olsson, Manager of International Collaboration, Area eHealth, SICS Swedish ICT, Part of RISE Sweden.
The Connected for Health project, in operation from June 2015 to June 2016, studied two significant aspects of the use of FTTH with open access in addressing the needs of the ageing population in Europe. The first aspect was to share experiences from Nordic countries with other European countries. The second aspect was to analyse and process available information on the use of FTTH, gathered by the pilots and from literature, for improving access of citizens to healthcare and social care services, with positive qualitative and economic benefits.
In total, 14 partners were involved in the Connected for Health project from Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland and Sweden. The total budget of the project is 1,7M euros. The project was co-funded by DG Connect through Commission Decision C(2014) 2761.
The full recommendations report is available on the project website.
For more information, please contact Regional Council of South Ostrobothnia, the coordinator of the project:
Marjatta Eväsoja, Director of International Affairs and Culture
+358 40 5296 046
Jaakko Hallila, Manager of International Affairs
+358 40 3565 630
Project: Connected for Health
Project website: http://www.epliitto.fi/connectedforhealth_en